Young Lights into Interior Secretary Over King Cove

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell already rejected a plan to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to link King Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay. These days, all three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation are trying to get her to change her mind. Today was Congressman Don Young’s turn to press the case.

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As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Young was allotted five minutes to question Jewell on the president’s $12 billion budget for Interior. Young asked only about King Cove. And Young wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. In fact, at times during the fiery exchange, he wasn’t taking any answers.

Young said the birds of the Izembek Refuge could adjust to traffic, like the birds on the George Washington Parkway, along the Potomac. Jewell told him the Izembek is a wetland of global significance.

–The birds that are in that area (Izembek) are different than the birds in the Potomac River.

–They are no different. There the same type of bird. The same species, as far as genetically goes, and you and I know that!

–No, sir, the Pacific black brant is …

–There is exactly the same attitude. They get used to it!

When bad weather prevents normal air travel in King Cove, critically ill and injured people have to wait for a Coast Guard helicopter. Such rescues generally happen four or five times a year, although there have been five just since December. They are said to cost more than $200,000 apiece. Young threatened Jewell with an unpleasant choice: Which of her divisions should Congress deduct that cost from?

–Which one of those departments do you think we take it out of?

–Congressman, I will continue …

–Which one of the departments should we take it out of?

–Congressman I do not believe money for a medical …

–You don’t think it’ll happen, do you?

–Can I finish? Would you like me to answer the question?

–No, I’m going to ask you which department. You answer.

Jewell also had to defend her King Cove decision last week at a Senate hearing, though Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich were less forceful in style.

Watch the exchange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxY_ARqi2iU

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz